Dan Ouellette


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Dan Ouellette on Uri Caine:

One of the most creative and forward-moving jazz artists today, Uri Caine has been a composer extraordinaire. His latest album, a poignant commission piece The Passion of Octavius Catto, features soprano Barbara Wallker, the Catto Freedom Orc hestra, the Philadelphia Choral Ensemble and the Nedra Neal Singers. Many commissions fall flat because of contrived, cerebral, unimaginative composition, but not so for Caine’s work of art, originally commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and debuted in 2014 at a free outdoor concert at Mann Center in Philadelphia in 2014 with 15,000 people attending. It teems with passion in celebrating one of our country’s largely unknown heroes of the early struggles for civil rights, black suffrage and integration. Caine read the 2010 Catto biography Tasting Freedom by Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin. “Octavius Catto was the 19th century’s Martin Luther King Jr,” he said. “But he has been a forgotten figure in U.S. history.” In the work which combines jazz and classical elements, Caine plays fleet-fingered avant piano splashes, dissonant pounces and keyboard exclamation points as the 37-member chamber orchestra swirls with melodic strings, bolted with horn accents, flurried with rhythmic flow that was dotted by pockets of clopping percussion. It’s conducted by Philadelphia’s esteemed conductor André Rafael who throws himself into the music.

Dan Ouellette on Mark Helias:

Bassist Mark Helias has been a go-to guy with a variety of beyond the ordinary in jazz. He co- led the avant-funk band Slickaphonics in the ‘80s with trombonist Ray Anderson and launched the renowned band BassDrumBone band with drummer Gerry Hemingway the decade before. His sideman duties include working with jazz adventure-seekers from Ornette Coleman’s bands including Dewey Redman, Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, and musicians affiliated with the AACM: Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams. Recently he has been contributing in sync on projects by pianist/composer Uri Caine.

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